Ninety-year-old Stanley Murphy, of Sussex, took to the A27 road in his Class 3 mobility scooter, to the consternation of many, including Mr. Murphy, who hadn’t intended to be there and had taken a wrong turn (which rather calls into question whether he should be out on his own – it could easily have been a motorway). It is, however, perfectly legal to use such a scooter on the highway, provided certain conditions are met, about which the Sussex police seem woefully ignorant.
The report of this, in the Times online mentions, rather worryingly, a “Sussex police spokesman” who couldn’t be bothered to get all his ducks in a row before speaking, because he clearly doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He said “by law an electric mobility scooter, as a mechanically propelled vehicle, requires a tax disc and number plate before it can be driven on a main road like the A27.” Except it’s not true.
Class 3 scooters, like this, are road vehicles, and do need to be registered with DVLA and display a ‘nil duty’ tax disc. They do NOT, however, require number plates. (Insurance isn’t compulsory, either which, oddly, wasn’t mentioned.) The police decided to take no action – just as well, perhaps.
This information is easily available on the DVLA website and at the Department for Transport. I find the ignorance of the police rather worrying. How many more gaps are there in their knowledge, and why didn’t the spokesman check his facts before going public?
In fact, Mr. Murphy was breaking the law, but the police failed to pick up on it. On a dual carriageway his scooter must have an amber flashing light, and a rear-view mirror – Both are clearly absent in the accompanying pictures.
The other thing that bothers me is that the police either missed Mr. Murphy’s tax disc, or the scooter hadn’t been registered with the DVLA when it was sold. Some dealers will do that for you – I believe they always should, as with cars, since a scooter sold without being registered isn’t legal to be used. Or maybe it was bought second-hand, privately, in which case the responsibility is Mr. Murphy’s. Or his family’s if, at 90 he can’t cope with the paperwork – but if that’s the case he surely can’t cope with the scooter, either.
The obvious place to fit a tax disc is on the front moulding, but there’s clearly no sign of one, or alternatively it could be bolted to the seat, or anywhere there’s a handy bolt, and can’t be seen in the pic. Whatever the reality, somebody was in the wrong. Either it was registered and the police missed it, or it wasn’t, and they missed the offence.
So, not only did the police think an offence had been committed by having no number plates, when in fact it hadn’t, they also missed 2, maybe 3 genuine ones (no mirror, no flashing light, maybe no tax disc).
Is it really too much to expect that the police should know the law?
There are a lot of things wrong here, but using a Class 3 scooter, as long as it’s registered and sporting a “Nil” tax disc and a flashing amber light, is perfectly legal on any road with the exception of motorways. Oh, and cycle lanes – for some insane reason (they’re also not allowed in bus lanes, but at least that makes sense). And either by accident or design, Mr. Murphy is doing the right thing in riding well out from the side of the road (cyclists know this well). This will force drivers to change lanes in order to pass safely, and not try to squeeze past in the same lane, putting the scooter rider at risk.
And here’s a tip for Mr. Murphy – it’s the middle of winter, wear sodding gloves!
By the way, I did post a comment at the Times, pointing out that (a) it’s not illegal to do what Mr. Murphy was doing, subject to conditions (with a link to the DVLA), and (b), the police were completely wrong about number plates. Was it published? Nope. And that’s weird, because in the past I’ve had a lot of success, but in the past week not a single comment has been published. I’d love to know why the Times is content to publish something, however, minor, that isn’t true, and ignore a correction. Makes me wonder how much faith one can have in the accuracy of the rest of their reporting?